Travelers are largely eager to put concerns about rising Covid cases behind them, a welcome development for Covid-weary companies like Carnival that are bullish on making a full recovery in 2023.
Carnival CEO Josh Weinstein said, during Wednesday’s earnings call for its fiscal fourth quarter that ended on November 30, some consumers are a bit weary about booking cruises with Covid and flu cases on the rise. But that didn’t dampen his optimism about 2023 with Carnival seeing a surge in bookings for the new year, after years of seeing its business being dogged by the pandemic with onboard outbreaks, deaths, and plenty of bad publicity.
“What we see is people are happy to get on with their lives,” Weinstein said. “We see trends that are going back to normal about how people are thinking about those kinds of illnesses. We always knew this point would come when all of the masking and staying away from each other would go away.”
He said that the company expects to see its occupancy gap in the first quarter compared to pre-Covid levels decrease, with Carnival Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein noting that Carnival anticipates its first quarter occupancy levels to hit 90 percent of 2019 levels. Carnival didn’t provide any specific numbers about bookings.
Carnival’s optimism comes after the company posted a record in revenue per diem during the fourth quarter, which Weinstein attributed to putting more ships back in service.
“Throughout 2022, we have successfully returned our fleet to service, aggressively building occupancy on growing capacity, while driving revenue per passenger cruise day higher than 2019 record levels, both in the fourth quarter and full year overall,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said the company placed 90 ships, roughly 35 percent of its fleet, back in service in 2022. Carnival saw occupancy in the fourth quarter hit 81 percent of pre-Covid levels, a 10 percentage point jump from the third quarter. Carnival also registered a 0.5 percent increase in revenue per passenger cruise day for the fourth quarter compared to 2019 levels.
Weinstein admitted though the uneven reopening of cruise travel worldwide and the ongoing war in Ukraine have hampered Carnival’s recovery, noting that the company’s brands most affected by those developments have experienced a slower rebound. He cited Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises in particular, with 40 percent of Costa’s and 25 percent of Princess’ guests coming from Australia, Asia and the Baltics in 2019.
“At this point in time, Australia’s reopening is where North America was a year ago. And Japan is closer to two years behind,” Weinstein said, with company also admitting that was concerned inflation and higher fuel causing a decline in demand for cruises.
Carnival generated $3.8 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter, a figure 80 percent of 2019 levels and a 14 percentage point improvement from this year’s third quarter. However, the company posted a $1.1 billion adjusted net loss.
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